Macau Police Bust Alleged $12.5m Illegal Online Betting Ring

  • Police arrested four people in connection to the alleged operation
  • The platforms offered online betting and a video link to live casino games
  • The websites allegedly ran since as far back as 2016
  • Macau authorities identified 125 fraudulent websites in the first eight months of 2020
man getting cuffed
Macau police have arrested four people in connection to an alleged illegal online gambling ring that made at least $12.5m in profits. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Four people under arrest

The Judiciary Police in Macau arrested several people on Thursday in connection to their alleged involvement in creating and operating illegal online gambling platforms. This operation reportedly used numerous servers in a local data center.

an “advertising and design company” allegedly acted as the front

An “advertising and design company” allegedly acted as the front for this gambling ring. The authorities believe that the profits from the operation were at least MOP100m ($12.5m). Police arrested two people from mainland China and two Macau ID holders. 

They also seized potential evidence from five offices in Macau’s ZAPE district and from three Taipa flats. The four suspects received charges for allegedly being a part of organized crime and illegal gambling operations.

Long-running websites

Police believe the suspects set up, operated, and maintained a number of illegal gambling websites and mobile apps. A few of the platforms supposedly fraudulently used the branding of licensed Macau companies. In addition to online betting, the websites also offered live casino play through a video link. The location of these live dealer games was either Cambodia or Thailand. 

processed “billions” of bets

The Judiciary Police made the arrests after receiving intelligence from mainland China police in May 2020. Mainland police arrested the supposed ringleader of the operation in Zhuhai before Thursday’s raids. Macau authorities believe that the illegal websites have been live since as far back as 2016. They are said to have processed “billions” of bets. 

An ongoing crackdown

Macau authorities are constantly trying to tackle illegal online gambling platforms. For the first eight months of 2020, they identified 125 illicit gambling or fraud-related websites and took down 97 of them. This was a significant decrease from 2019, when there were 254 such websites identified and 177 of them were blocked.

Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng recently emphasized that his administration will continue to foster responsible gambling. It is especially focused on loan sharking crimes in local casinos, illicit money exchanges, and “tips hustling.”

The land-based casino sector in Macau has struggled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was largely because travel restrictions resulted in a significant decrease in visitor numbers to the region. A knock-on effect was that gaming-related crime cases fell by 82% for the first eight months of 2020.